Answering Questions About Prayer
Why we pray
I don’t know about you but I had wondered about the connection of faith and prayer many times in the past. The part where I got really confused was the seemingly contradicting ideas of persistence in prayer and God’s sovereignty. I simply could not reconcile the notion that I have some power of persuasion over God to get things from Him or convince Him in any way. I also could not accept the teaching that I deserve more than due credit for “answered prayers,” and that it is somehow because of my praying that this or that happened. I know it must have played an important part, but I also strongly believe it was all God.
Undeniably, prayer is commanded in scriptures, and I raise no objections with that regards. Maybe that’s why having prayed for something that has now been answered gives so much joy, is because “the praying” that happened was an act of obedience; therefore, the answer was a result of obedience; in addition, God has promised that there is a reward when we obey. So in the same way, when we pray the more we experience first-hand God’s display of faithfulness.
Hebrew 4:16; “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
God having made clear in scriptures that He rewards obedience though not necessarily with answers as we have exactly expected, but always with us being drawn closer to Him, becoming more like Christ, and thus glorifying Him; I believe that is the real reward. That is why we pray---for God’s glory.
Another thing that incited much meditation was the relationship between prayer, faith, and God’s sovereignty.
‘Why do I pray for this when it might not be in God’s will?”
“What should I pray for?”
“How do I pray?”
“How does faith work in prayer?”
What part does faith play in prayer besides hoping that God will answer? How is God’s sovereignty exalted through the seeming “input” or “labor in prayer” of a Christian? Don’t get me wrong though, I love praying but I wanted to understand it better. The privilege and gift of communing with God through prayer must mean more than telling and asking.
Delighting in God
Psalm 37:4; “Delight yourself in the Lord,
and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
Delight means to please (verb) or great pleasure (noun). Therefore this verse teaches that we ought to find our pleasure, and please ourselves solely IN THE LORD. Our delight ought to be exclusively found in the Lord. That is the prerequisite to the promise of God giving the desires of our hearts.
Delighting ourselves in the Lord means desiring God Himself; this is practically a game changer in praying because if we desire God then we desire what God desires, and for that, God promises our prayers will be answered. Consequently, desiring God also means desiring His will to be fulfilled, His promises to be waited upon, His commands to be obeyed, and His glory to be honored and displayed. That I believe is a strong compass and motivational force to both direct and sustain our prayers and keep us in it.
Remember when Moses refused to move forward in the exodus if God will not be with them?
Exodus 33:15-16; “15 And he (Moses) said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. 16 For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”
The Promised Land meant nothing if God is not in it. Same with everything, if we have truly seen the glory of the Lord in Christ Jesus our Savior, then how can we have desires which God is not in it? Or in which God’s will and holiness is compromised and not prioritized?
Another example was King David himself when he faced Goliath. In the narrative we can see that David had nothing in mind but God’s glory. David remembered who his God is, that no size such as Goliath’s was able to dissuade him. David delighted himself in the Lord; even though he had his share of undulations, it was not surprising that he was eventually called as the man after God’s own heart.
1 Samuel 17; 37; “37 And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”
1 Samuel 17:45; “45 Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.”
Psalm 42:2; My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God?
Psalm 63:1; “O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You,”
What to Pray For
Furthermore, when we pray, we exercise faith; it is a poignant demonstration of how faith works, that even if our eyes cannot yet see faith in its tangible form, our spirit through prayer supplies all the vision we will ever require. Prayerfulness is a disposition wherein nothing can move us in our waiting upon God.
Hebrews 11:1; “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Another thing that I have come to understand is that prayer is not asking God for something that we have not already in Christ. Ephesians 1 was very clear that we already have everything that we need in Christ, and we are even being transformed into who we are now in Christ. Sounds confusing, right? Well, Christian life is more of a paradox that we expect it to be.
Ephesians 1:3-4; “3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.”
2 Peter 1:3; “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,”
Galatians 2:20; “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
What then should we pray for?
Let’s first take a look at 1 Kings 3:5-12; “
“5 At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, and God said, “Ask what I shall give you.” 6 And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant David my father, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you. And you have kept for him this great and steadfast love and have given him a son to sit on his throne this day. 7 And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in. 8 And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude. 9 Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?”
10 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. 11 And God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, 12 behold, I now do according to your word…”
If we are to summarize the passage it will go like this, God told Solomon to ask what God shall give him. What King Solomon prayed for was wisdom that he might be an effective King for God’s glory. Solomon prayed for what God has already promised for all who call upon Him and believe. Solomon asked not for his sake, but for the sake of God’s glory; though it was something that Solomon really needed as a king, his ultimate desire was to glorify God with that need and not merely satisfy his lack.
God wanted Solomon to ask. God has already promised. Solomon delighted in the Lord thus asked for His glory. God was pleased with Solomon’s faith in praying that way. God enabled Solomon to experience and use the wisdom that God has already promised for those who ask and believe. Solomon’s need was satisfied, God’s name was glorified.
James 4:3; “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”
Matthew 5:6; ““Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
Remember that we must carry everything in prayer to the Lord, from the most urgent plea to the seemingly picayune concerns. God cares for each one, but scripture teaches that we ought to ask on the basis of God’s promises for every care; we must then discipline ourselves to pray with such an assurance that comes from God’s promises that are already ours in Christ.
Philippians 4:6-7; “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Prayer, Faith, God’s Sovereignty
Prayer, then, is delighting in the Lord. That is how faith works in prayer. It works under the power of God’s sovereignty as it feeds on the authority of scriptures. Faith in prayer is where we rest on God’s sovereignty and all that He is. We pray for deliverance for He has promised that He is a God that delivers, we pray for the salvation of souls for He is a God that saves, we pray for protection for He is our refuge; we pray for our future because He is the God who holds the future. We pray because God commands us to pray; we pray because He has first promised and proven time and time again that He is faithful. Regardless how long before the answer comes and in spite of the given answers being not the kind we’ve expected, we rejoice and continue to pray because we rest on God’s sovereignty.
Isaiah 14:24; “24 The Lord of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand:”
Habakkuk 3:17-18; 17 Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: 18 Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
Prayer is a place of refuge inside God’s sovereignty, a place where we kneel down before our God in worship as we say, “Sovereign Lord, I trust in you. Here are my woes, my concerns, my joys. I remember your promise for each one of it. My soul shall wait for you, let your name be glorified.”
“God’s promises are given not to restrain, but to incite prayer. They show the direction in which we may ask, and the extent to which we may expect an answer. They are the mold into which we may pour our fervid spirits without fear.”- Meyer
Psalm 18:1-3, 30; “I will love thee, O Lord, my strength.
2 The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.
3 I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.
(v.30) As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the Lord is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; “16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”